Ayo - Joyful (2007)

Ayo
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Ayo sings simple songs. And on her album Joyful, the simplicity of the lyrics and the sparse arrangements are an asset, allowing the listeners to quickly wrap their heads around the theme of each song and to appreciate the uniqueness, clarity and power of Ayo's voice.  Many of Ayo's songs deal with the well-beaten musical path of affairs of the heart. However, there are also introspective tunes that address topics like self-doubt and depression.

Ayo is the daughter of a Nigerian father and a German-born mother. She spent a small part of her childhood in Nigeria, but grew up in Germany. That international feel can be heard in her pronunciations.  Ayo's upbringing means that she has a comfort in giving American musical genres an international feel. For example, the blues coarse through the lyrics and Ayo's vocal delivery on the reggae tune "Down on my Knees."

Ayo sings simple songs. And on her album Joyful, the simplicity of the lyrics and the sparse arrangements are an asset, allowing the listeners to quickly wrap their heads around the theme of each song and to appreciate the uniqueness, clarity and power of Ayo's voice.  Many of Ayo's songs deal with the well-beaten musical path of affairs of the heart. However, there are also introspective tunes that address topics like self-doubt and depression.

Ayo is the daughter of a Nigerian father and a German-born mother. She spent a small part of her childhood in Nigeria, but grew up in Germany. That international feel can be heard in her pronunciations.  Ayo's upbringing means that she has a comfort in giving American musical genres an international feel. For example, the blues coarse through the lyrics and Ayo's vocal delivery on the reggae tune "Down on my Knees."

The influence of Ayo's European upbringing can also be heard on "How Many Times," a mournful song about the pain caused that is caused by betrayal and broken promises, in which what appears to be an accordion can be heard. This song is a perfect example of the eloquence and power of the power of plainspoken lyrics. Ayo could be singing as a frustrated lover who wearies from hearing her man's continued broken promises. The song also works as a musings of a hurt, angry and confused child trying to make sense of a parent's failure to live up to his or her responsibilities. Learning about Ayo's family history makes the latter scenario appear more plausible. Ayo's mother became addicted to heroin when the singer was six-years old. Anybody who has ever had a parent who was addicted to drugs or alcohol can identify with these lyrics: "How many times/I couldn't sleep/Cause I saw you dying in my dreams/How many times  you lied to me/Raised my hope and I believed/So many times you went away/Even though you promised me to stay/You always said soon it will be OK/But til today, nothing's changed."

Ayo follows up "How Many Times" with a cover of Abby Lincoln's anti-domestic violence song "And It's Supposed to Be Love." The original version by Lincoln, the great jazz singer with a history of singing socially relevant songs, was a jazzy rhythm section-driven song in which the piano and upright bass played a prominent role. Ayo's arrangement is more up-tempo with the acoustic guitar up front. The guitar and the percussions also give the song an Afro-Caribbean beat. 

There is always the risk that acoustic, folk influenced albums like Joyful fall into a rut of sameness. However, Joyful never succumbs to that shortcoming. The album is addresses a variety of topics and never settles into one tempo. Ayo also has a delightful voice, and the fact that she has major label support might help that voice get heard.

By Howard Dukes

 

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